Trump indictment has 2024 implications for both of Florida’s most famous politicians. But what? | Opinion

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The indictment of Donald J. Trump is not a time for his enemies to gloat. It’s not a time for his fervent supporters to violently take to the streets, nor is it a time for the former president to incite them to do so.

It’s a time, rather, to consider how this country reached this stunning point.

It’s not like we didn’t know this was coming. After all, there are several investigations into the former president’s actions — both while he occupied the Oval Office and after. The ex-president himself even said he was going to be indicted.

But on Thursday, a New York grand jury made it official, voting to indict him, most likely for his alleged role in paying hush money to a porn star.

The ex-president’s response was vintage, fire-breathing, capital-letter Trump: “This is Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history. From the time I came down the golden escalator at Trump Tower, and even before I was sworn in as your President of the United States, the Radical Left Democrats — the enemy of the hard-working men and women of this Country — have been engaged in a Witch-Hunt to destroy the Make America Great Again movement.”

Trump, once again, is the president without precedent. He was twice impeached when he was in office. And, now, the dam has broken. For the first time, a former president has been criminally charged. That may embolden other prosecutors in the many investigations into Trump’s dealings.

We can’t forget that Trump remains under investigation in Georgia over allegations of election interference in 2020. There’s still a special prosecutor in the federal system looking into his handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, too. There’s also the Justice Department investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection and efforts to overturn the election that Trump falsely claimed to have won.

Nor can we ignore the implications for Florida’s second most-famous politician. Trump’s indictment could mean a clearer path for DeSantis to realize his presidential ambitions. His hard-right policies, his travel itinerary including a speech in Israel, his just-published book — all are the build up to a likely announcement in the near future.

However, Trump’s legal troubles could further solidify his true believers. Trump is resilient, and his followers will no doubt see these charges as more evidence that he is being persecuted.

In a field of candidates that’s like to grow, DeSantis surely hopes — and perhaps even needs — to win over Trump’s supporters to clinch the Republican nomination. Despite the buzz he has created with his migrant flights and drag-queen drama, DeSantis still trails Trump among likely Republican voters in several credible polls.

DeSantis is getting push back from powerful Trump Republicans telling him to sit this one out, wait for 2028. In addition, the governor is facing questions about his time as a lawyer in the Navy in 2006, during the country’s war on terrorism. This Editorial Board, for instance, wants to know what DeSantis’ duties were when he was a 27-year-old lieutenant at the notorious U.S. military detention facility in Guantánamo, Cuba.

In recent weeks, DeSantis has sought to have it both ways, taking the “high road” defending Trump regarding his possible indictment, then landing a low blow, saying he did not know what it was like to be indicted for paying hush money to a stripper.

In a tweet on Thursday, the governor, again, appeared to defend Trump by not offending his loyalists: “Florida will not assist in an extradition request given the questionable circumstances at issue with this Soros-backed Manhattan prosecutor and his political agenda.”

Progressive philanthropist George Soros has been the favorite boogeyman for the political right, code for what many consider to be anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

DeSantis also tweeted, “The weaponization of the legal system to advance a political agenda turns the rule of law on its head. It is un-American.”

Yes, it would be un-American. But that is not the case here. Following the rule of law is as American as it gets. If Trump broke the law, this is the very process through which to make that determination. This very same process will determine, too, if he is not guilty.

No matter which of the myriad investigations ultimately resulted in the first charges, it likely that we would reach this point before the election.

An ex-president has been charged. It’s a terrible moment for the country. It will widen the divide that already exists between us. But if sufficient evidence is there, it is the right thing to do.

Will the country’s bonds hold up under such strain? We’re about to find out.